Hildegard von Bingen - Laudes De Sainte Ursule - XIIth Century

Published Monday 4th February 2019
Hildegard von Bingen - Laudes De Sainte Ursule - XIIth Century
Hildegard von Bingen - Laudes De Sainte Ursule - XIIth Century

STYLE: Choral
RATING 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
LABEL: Harmonia Mundi HMO8901626

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

I find reviewing Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) somewhat challenging. Once I have ticked the boxes for performance and audio quality - both satisfactory here - everything else depends on the listener's preconceptions. If you enjoy medieval chant in general or the works of Hildegard in particular the chances are you may already have the Lauds of St Ursula in your collection. Indeed you may already own this take by Marcel Pérès and his Ensemble Organum as it was first issued in 1996. If you are new to the saint, visionary, healer and composer that is Hildegard of Bingen is this the best introduction? There are many worthwhile recommendations and it will soon become clear that different conductors have their own take on Hildegard. Personally I like The Anonymous Four although I agree that what they sing is almost certainly different to how Hildegard would have been heard by her original listeners, and Jeremy Summerly's Oxford Camerata on the budget Naxos label are excellent value for money but the album under review is somewhat different. Marcel Pérès's aim is to consider Hildegard in the light of the Benedictine tradition of the post-Carolingian period - and also in the wake of the great creative spirit that inspired the whole 12th century. These psalms and antiphons in honour of Saint Ursula perpetuated a powerful Rhineland legend that haunted the popular imagination throughout the last centuries of the Middle Ages and beyond. Pérès defends his position in four pages of booklet notes but even if he is correct contemporary listeners may prefer a less authentic sound, particularly if they are listening to chant as background music. Hildegard deserves to be taken seriously and, as ever, Marcel Pérès and Ensemble Organum do just that. Early music specialists cannot afford to ignore this release even if they disagree with the positions taken by Pérès but general listeners may prefer to start their exploration elsewhere.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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